I would like to give a big thank you to Michael Zimmerman who wrote a piece for the Huffington Post, Profiles in (Evolutionary) Courage, Part 4: Bringing Sanity to Louisiana, supporting the repeal effort. You can read it below.
At the Democratic National Convention in August, 1996 Christopher Reeve said “So many of our dreams at first seem impossible, then they seem improbable, and then, when we summon the will, they soon become inevitable.”
Today his words could refer to the efforts of Zack Kopplin, a high school senior from Baton Rouge (LA) Magnet High School. Zack has set his sights on overturning a 2008 Louisiana law that permits creationism to creep into public schools under the cover of scientific openness. The law in question, Louisiana Science Education Act (LSEA), professed to be about improving science education but it encourages teachers to bring supplemental materials, including those attacking evolution and promoting creationism, into their classrooms.
There are a number of factors that make Zack’s dream appear absolutely impossible to achieve. First, when the bill landed on Governor Bobby Jindal’s desk, he signed it despite overwhelming advice to the contrary from a host of national scientific organizations. Second, the bill’s passage through the Louisiana legislature was a sight to behold. Indeed, the senate passed the bill unanimously without any debate after it had cleared the house by a resounding 94-3 vote. Finally, the bill’s loudest supporter was Louisiana Family Forum, a group “affiliated with Focus on the Family” and whose mission “is to persuasively present biblical principles in the centers of influence on issues affecting the family through research.” By all accounts, Louisiana Family Forum is a major political force in Louisiana.
But it is just possible that this tenacious 17-year-old will succeed. By some measures, he’s already moved from the impossible to the improbable. Indeed, when Louisiana’s Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) took up the issue of purchasing new biology textbooks for the state this past year, the Louisiana Family Forum thoroughly politicized the issue by demanding the purchase be halted because the proposed books were “biased toward the theory of evolution.” Zack jumped in and began a campaign to ensure that his fellow students had access to the best textbooks available. He spoke out in favor of high quality science education even while the Louisiana Family Forum and some big name legislators wanted “alternatives” to evolution included in science texts.
Against all odds, Zack prevailed. The BESE voted 8-2 in December to move forward with the purchase and much of the credit was given to Zack and his efforts. The Baton Rouge Advocate‘s editorial praising the vote began by asking the provocative question, “The newest giant-killer in state education policy?” They then answered their question by introducing Zack Kopplin.
Zack’s relentless march toward repeal came closer to a reality recently when State Senator Karen Carter Peterson said that she was on board and planned to introduce legislation authorizing repeal. Obviously, there’s a great deal more work to be done, but Zack is developing into an articulate spokesperson for his cause while recognizing the realities of building coalitions.